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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Dr. Benji Levy

The Desired Consequences of Unity

It was a groundbreaking moment in Israel’s history. The leader of the Islamist Party signed a deal with the secular son of an anti-religious Holocaust survivor to establish a change government led by the first religious Zionist prime minister of the State of Israel. Seeing leaders from across the spectrum reaching beyond their ideological camps to break the political deadlock was a shock to many. Yet for all the weaknesses inherent in a coalition of eight minority parties, if the new government remains focused on its principal goal, its diversity could turn out to be its greatest strength.

Let’s be clear: This government will not achieve a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or many issues of religion and state. Nonetheless, this may prove to be a blessing in disguise serving as more than just a circuit breaker. By putting aside the most divisive issue in Israeli politics, the government will be forced to address the very issues which actually do unite Israelis but have long been neglected. The pressing needs to lower the cost of living, reform the healthcare system and invest in infrastructure are just a few prominent examples. With political maturity, the results of the new coalition can start stabilizing the country and advancing the nation.

The events of the last month highlight the pressing need for us all to answer a wider call to unity. Even as thousands of Hamas rockets were being fired at civilians indiscriminately, Israelis saw ethnic violence erupt on streets across the country. Meanwhile, a tidal wave of antisemitism was unleashed across the West, with anti-Jewish attacks often taking place under the guise of pro-Palestinian activism. The decision by Israel’s Islamist Party to join a coalition consisting of a constellation of Zionist parties from the Right and Left is a major step in healing these very divides.

For Jews around the world, especially younger generations, the conflict also revealed their increasingly complicated and distant relationship with the State of Israel. Many feel forced to prioritize progressive and popular views over support for the Jewish state, perceiving the two as a political paradox. The resulting existential identity crisis facing many raises a question that the political breakthrough may provide an answer to. Cutting through the polarizing backdrop of world politics, this new government represents a nuanced alternative that could resonate with a thoughtful audience seeking the balance of differing interests and ideologies toward a greater cause.

No one will be excited about every single major appointment in the coalition, but it is time to celebrate and cultivate the best of what each political faction, population group and indeed each person can bring to the table. This dignity of diversity can serve as the source of our strength.

It’s easy to call for unity. The hard part is to translate it into action. This new government will have to work hard to stay together under immense pressure. There is, however, a way forward. The coronavirus was an example of a crisis that affected everyone, regardless of age or stage, culture or color. As we pick up the pieces, heal and rebuild, unity, not uniformity, is the only response. A bad healthcare or education system does not differentiate between Arabs or Jews, the secular or religious and people on the political Left or Right and everyone suffers because of its deficiencies.

A focus on unifying Israelis around these pressing issues will create confidence and strength to tackle the broader challenges facing Israel and the Jewish people which have been exacerbated in recent times. This could be the government that shelves those things that divide us and makes some actual progress on those things which we all need to so desperately fix.

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